Copy Editor’s Tip: Creating the first layout

Finally, you’re ready to create the first layout, when final design and copy come together. It means your project is nearly done. I always look forward to seeing the plain text I’ve been reviewing up until then transform into something more visual. But to get the cleanest first layout to present to the client in the fastest way, i.e., with minimal rounds of changes, project managers should remember two things:

  • Last-minute changes to the copy before first layout should be proofread by the proofreader/editor.
  • In the first proofread after the first layout, the proofreader may have to make further changes to the “final” copy.

It’s tempting to have the designer input any last-minute copy changes. However, any errors in the requested changes, or structural fixes needed as a result of the changes, are easier to fix in a plain text document by the editor/proofer, which avoids a round through the design department in case the first layout turns out to be otherwise perfect.

After layout, the proofer will make sure all the copy was laid out. However, when copy melds with a design, it takes another form, it looks different and may read different. Also, the designer may have slightly modified some text, such as a header or caption, to make it fit better in the design. Further, the proofer will be reviewing the piece overall, not just the copy, checking for conformance to house style for example, which may or may not involve small tweaks to the copy. This review is like a first review of a new piece.

It should only take a few production rounds to perfect the first layout, and hopefully, the result is exactly what the client wanted.

Reminder: Language changes

The other day, I got in the “10 Items or Fewer” line at my local Trader Joe’s market. The sign said “fewer” and not the more often seen “less.” That’s not a problem, but they didn’t have to change it, according to noted linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. (See the article cited in a previous post about rules of English you can break.) This British comedian agrees:

Examples of bad Web copy

goodbadGermanfoodThis bratwurst lunch from the local German market/cafe was almost good. The sausage was fresh and the rye bread was homemade. But I don’t believe the other half was that authentically German, which was a disappointment. Isn’t it better to serve something of good quality all around?

So it is with website copy. Take a look at the 13 examples of bad Web copy in this article from WebdesignerDepot.com. Avoid these mistakes. Serve up something authentic and of good quality: Use a good copywriter.